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Posted at 08:22 AM ET, 04/20/2012

Va. judges to rule on death penalty for triple murderer

RICHMOND, Va. — Attorneys for a triple-murderer who vowed to keep killing unless given the death penalty offered the Virginia Supreme Court no reasons Thursday to spare their client’s life.

It took the justices less than 10 minutes to hear Robert Gleason Jr.’s two death penalty cases. They asked no questions and are expected to issue their decision by early June.

Even though Gleason waived his appeals, state law requires the Supreme Court to review all death sentences to ensure that they are not disproportionate or imposed under influence of passion or prejudice.

“There is no evidence we can argue for your honors in this case to contradict those principles,” one of Gleason’s attorneys, Charles L. Bledsoe, told the court.

Gleason was serving a life prison term for murder in 2009 when he killed his cellmate, Harvey Watson Jr. After warning prison officials he would kill again if not sentenced to death, Gleason strangled inmate Aaron Cooper in an adjoining outdoor recreation cage at Red Onion State Prison in July 2010.

Cooper was dead more than an hour before corrections officers found him. Katherine Burnette, senior assistant attorney general, said Gleason sarcastically told officers trying to resuscitate Cooper that “you’re going to have to pump a lot harder than that.”

Gleason continued to warn, in court and in interviews with The Associated Press, that he would keep killing if not given the death penalty.

Gleason got his wish when he was sentenced to death in September.

“I don’t know that Bobby really wants to die,” attorney Thomas R. Scott Jr., who represented Gleason in the Cooper case, said after the hearings. “He’s resigned himself that what he’s done is bad, and he deserves to be executed.”

He said Gleason would have preferred that his attorneys not even appear before the Supreme Court, but he understood that they were required by law to do so — even if they weren’t going to contest the death sentences.

Gleason’s attorneys in the Watson case said in court papers that a death sentence was inappropriate because prosecutors initially offered him a life sentence. However, they did not press that claim in their remarks to the justices.

“He felt death was appropriate,” Bledsoe told reporters after the hearings.

Burnette said in court that Gleason’s actions, as well his comment that killing a person was “like tying a shoe,” overwhelmingly demonstrate that he should be executed.

Read more: The Post’s crime coverage

By the Associated Press  |  08:22 AM ET, 04/20/2012

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